Mahinda Rajapaksa, former war-time President of Sri Lanka and accused war-criminal, has criticised UNP Presidential candidate, Sajith Premadasa, of deliberately misleading the Sinhalese majority by avoiding the term “unitary state”.
In his statement, he claims the chapter of the UNP’s manifesto dealing with constitutional reforms will replace Sri Lanka’s “unitary state” and will lead to the nation becoming “a loose federation of virtually independent provincial units”.
He further asserts that the UNP is deliberately misleading the Sinhalese majority by avoiding the English phrase “unitary state”, as he maintains that this has “specific constitutional connotations”. Instead, the Sinhalese edition uses the phrase “ekeeya rajya” roughly meaning “undivided and indivisible”. In Tami, the phrase “orumiththa nadu” is used. Rajapaksa claims that the deliberate avoidance of the term “unitary state” will mean that in Sinhalese the label of a unitary state will remain whereas in Tami and English this would no longer be the case.
This deliberate avoidance of the term “unitary state”, he asserts, is also shown by the use of the phrase ‘maubime ekeeyathwaya’ which means “the unity of the motherland” but has no constitutional values.
Rajapaksa maintains that the UNP's proposal contains;
provisions to expand the powers and functions of the provincial councils, to set up a second chamber in Parliament made up of provincial council representatives in order to curb the powers of Parliament, to allow the provincial units to raise funds independently, to place district and divisional secretaries under the provincial councils and to create a Constitutional Court which will adjudicate in disputes between the center and the provincial units.
Premadasa’s manifesto reads:
“We will protect the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of our motherland. We will bring government decision-making closer to the people. Maximum devolution of power within an undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka will be implemented. Devolution of power will be meaningful, efficient and waste will be reduced. Devolution of power will ensure that we create true unity among all Sri Lankans”.